Do more than just play! Elevate your game with this guide that walks through tips for every playing position.
It takes more than sheer power and strength to succeed and stand out as a baseball player. Perfecting your sport is an art, and each position on the field can be refined using different strategies.
In this guide we’ll provide tips for every position on the diamond so that you can hone in on your craft and shine as a player!
Tips for Pitchers
You’re not just throwing a baseball as fast as you can and trying to get that radar gun to light up. There’s no question that velocity is important as a pitcher, but how are you commanding that velocity? You direct and control that speed, you don’t let it control you.
When you focus on just that radar gun, you relinquish command of your pitch and oversimplify your game. It becomes less about playing well, and more about that radar number.
Train well to improve your endurance and develop control.
Work on your form to protect your whole arm and prevent baseball injuries. Simplify your motions by eliminating unnecessary movement that could increase fatigue and risk for injury. You want consistent control and efficiency with each throw.
Find your unique formula!
Your quick 2 second pitch actually involves a dynamic, complex series of biomechanical movements that make it the fastest human motion in any sport! Although each pitcher’s formula will be slightly different and unique, there is a general sequence that each player will follow from the starting stance to follow-through.
Practice proper posture.
In the starting stance, it’s important to have good balance and be square to the plate. A lot of this comes down to proper posture. Stand on the side of the rubber that corresponds with the arm you pitch with so that you are able to throw straight and your body is in line with the target. Proper foot positioning and step width is important so that you don’t have to compensate with unnecessary movements that increase room for errors and decrease momentum.
It’s all about balance!
Careful to maintain balance throughout your movements. Be careful with raising your leg too high - only go as far as your balance will allow. You need to direct your entire mass (with good posture!) towards your target during that initial movement for the best velocity.
Your hip should lead your shoulder for as long as possible, without stops or hesitation and with your head positioned over the center of your upper body. Initiate the pitch with a hand pump and rocker step movement while keeping your body in line with your target. Avoid shifting your weight from your midline while you pivot. Most of your velocity is going to come from good posture during your stride, and a strong back leg will contribute to your stability.
Break your hands as late as possible, close to the body, and back up like a pendulum swing after the lead leg starts downward. If you break too early, you lose some acceleration. The glove arm should go up early while the throwing arm is still down and back to promote proper alignment and rotation. Steady glove arms reduce unnecessary movement!
Stick the landing!
Land on a flat foot, with your head between your feet. You are creating a transfer of energy from your legs to your upper body when you land with a solid front foot. A closed foot and closed toes means more power! Avoid landing on your heel, which can cause your stride foot to open and lead to too-early rotation. Early rotation wastes effort.
Your throwing forearm should be as close to horizontal as possible at the end of the arm cocking phase and the beginning of the ball acceleration phase. Greater external shoulder rotation during the arm cocking phase means more velocity! Do what feels natural for your arm slot, and finish in a long smooth arc of deceleration to reduce stress on your arm.
For more baseball pitching drills, check out No Errors blog.
Tips for Batters
While there can be significant variation between two great batters in their initial pre-pitch rhythms, there are some fundamentals to batting that they share behind each perfect swing.
Of course, each of your swings will be different based on the pitch you’re given, but follow these general guidelines to give yourself the best shot at a great swing.
Balance is key!
A strong front leg will help stop forward momentum and start the axis of your rotation behind the swing. At the same time, keep your back leg on your toe. Stay balanced by keeping your feet about shoulder-width apart, with your weight in the balls of your feet. Whichever side you hit on, keep that hand palm up and the other hand palm down for power.
Maintain eye contact and form.
Eyes on the prize! Focus on seeing the ball so that you can make contact, with your head between both feet and in a line with your back knee and back hip. This creates a “triangle” between your head and feet. Triangles are the strongest shapes, so this alignment contributes to balance and stability with minimal excess movement. Hold your head at the position it’s in as you make contact with the ball.
Stay inside the ball.
For the most power as you rotate, your elbow should be by your side. If your arm leaves the side of your body, you lose leverage. This tactic is called staying “inside the ball.” Lock your wrists during your extension so that your hits are consistent, compared to when you let them roll.
Incorporate the right practice drills.
During practice, incorporate fence drills to perfect your short swings and do bunting for hand-eye coordination. Your short swing will also improve if you practice with a wooden bat, which has a smaller barrel that forces you to have a shorter swing with better extension to recreate the same power.
Tips for Shortstops
As a shortstop, you play an important role in your team’s defense. You need to be well-versed in both routine and non-routine plays, and really own being a team player. To be a great shortstop you need to have your basic movements down, as well as strategy and communication.
Like all positions, you need to be properly conditioned and practice good form to not only play your best game but avoid injuries. This is especially true for your throwing arm.
Practice makes perfect!
Know how to adjust your position according to your arm strength and the speed of the hitter at bat. You need to be prepared to cover second base while still covering your area. This is challenging, but your ability to compensate will become refined with practice. Try shuffling towards second with the first few steps while a runner tries stealing so that your body is still squared to home and you can alternate direction at a moment’s notice.
During a double play, aim to get the ball to the second baseman’s glove hand quickly and accurately at chest level so that he can start getting his momentum to first. But don’t rush and make an error! Field, then throw.
Take time using the right footwork and form for more accurate throws.
When a ball is hit at you, catch it from a fielding position instead of as if you are throwing to first. When it’s hit to your right and you want to backhand it, plant your right leg after you make your catch and throw to second. Don’t try to jump and throw in one motion!
A ball to your left will be thrown to second baseman underhand, after you clear your glove hand quickly to the left of your body so that he can see it. Step with your right foot towards second base so that you can follow through the motion. If you can’t make an underhand toss to the second baseman and have to backhand it, turn your thumb to the ground and use your elbow to throw.
When you’re covering second, catch and drag your foot across the bag to make the out as the ball is being thrown. The trick is to time your approach to second with small steps in the beginning so that if there is a sudden change in direction you have time to adjust.
Tips for Outfielders
As an outfielder, you need to cover a lot of ground tracking down and catching fly balls.
Start in a ready position!
You’ll be starting from a ready position each time and make sure you’re moving in between pitches. As the pitch is about to start, you should be in your ready position with your feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, hands off your knees, and ready to make that first step once you see where the swing goes (not before!).
Study how the ball reacts with the bat.
You need to understand how balls behave based on where they’re hit. Balls in the outfield are usually either hooking or slicing, especially as they’re hit toward the corners. The term is based on how it looks from the outfielder’s position. Knowing these theories will help you make your first move.
Right handed batters that hit towards the left field usually end up with a ball that “hook” from the batters perspective, or move from left to right from your point of view. A left handed batter hitting toward the left field will “slice” the ball, where it looks like it’s going from left to right as well.
Conversely, when a right handed batter sends a ball to the right field, this is called
“slicing,” where from your perspective it looks like it’s going right to left. A left handed
batter sending the ball to the right field will be referred to as “hooking.”
Pay attention to how the ball interacts with the ground.
Outfielders also need to be aware of how the ground will affect the ball’s trajectory. Depending on how the grass is laying, the ball might “snake.” While this can be unpredictable, it will be easier to understand with experience.
Use the right footwork to help you cover more ground.
A crossover step can help you cover a lot of ground when you’re tracking a fly ball. Whichever direction you need to go, take the opposite foot and throw it over the other in that direction, and try running on your toes to minimize bounce.
Try to beat the ball to where it’s going (after actually looking!). Always make sure you are tracking the ball with your eyes and have a good line of sight. It’s easy to lose track of the ball, especially when your glove gets in the way when you’re trying to catch it. Don’t lose it for even a split second!
Tips for Infielders
Your team is depending on you to field those balls and help them win the game! You need to be practicing drills that improve your footwork and coordination.
Focus on footwork, and don’t stay idle.
When you have your footwork down, the rest follows. Stay moving to stay in control. Keep moving, and use your feet to get to the ball.
Make the most of your glove.
Push the heel of your wrist in your gloved hand towards the ground when you’re fielding ground balls so that you can use all of your glove’s surface area and prevent balls from rolling up your arm if they bounce.
Practice ground ball drills, and practice form.
A drill you can use to practice footwork as an infielder is to field ground balls by presetting your glove and then moving only your feet to get to the ball. You want to be catching the ball with your gloved hand to the side of your body, not in the middle or across. Keep your hands extended so that the ball and your glove are always in your line of vision, with your gloved hand relaxed. Once you catch the ball, bring it to the center of your body so that it is secure and you’re ready to throw with a four-seam grip!
Always use a four-seam grip!
A four-seam grip is your best tool as an infielder when you’re throwing the ball. Position your index and middle fingers across the horseshoe to keep the ball flying straight and accurately, with just the right amount of backspin.
Tips for Catchers
Catchers have unique physical demands that make this position a challenge. You are constantly in a squatting position and absorbing the hard balls hit your way, playing a critical role in the game that largely goes unnoticed. You need to have a basic understanding of every position on the field, ready to do everything from position fielders when needed, frame pitches, and block balls from going to the backstop. All with no breaks, in every play!
Recognize your position as a leader on the field.
As a catcher, you can’t wait on other players to communicate with you. Be vocal, and don’t be shy! You are leading your defense. Step up when needed and back up your basemen.
Know that your pitcher is depending on you!
Know that you are the only player that is responsible for another position - the pitcher. It’s your job to receive the pitches and frame them (and frame them well), call games, throw base stealers out, and block balls. It’s also your job to help motivate your pitcher and reassure them during games.
Train for strength and endurance.
In training, make sure that you are building strength in your leg muscles and stretching out to prevent overuse from the constant crouching and explosive movements. Practice communicating with your pitcher during practice, and always hustle! Contribute to offense to give your knees and back a break from the repetitive catcher motions.
Know that form can make or break you!
Make sure you have proper squatting technique down, and practice receiving and blocking balls. If you are just now getting acquainted with the position, practice catching balls from the couch so you can practice hustling up from a resting position the way you’ll need to hustle on the field.
For more tips on what it takes to be a catcher, check out our Ultimate Catchers Guide!
No matter what position you play, general conditioning and confidence are going to be your best tools on the field! If you have doubts about your technique and want to catch things that the naked human eye misses, try using video so you can watch your form frame by frame. By consistently giving your all in practice and perfecting your technique, you will not only get better at your game but help shake some of the pre-game jitters that sabotage your performance. Take some deep breaths, get in the zone, and get practicing!